Why being ‘faceless’ is bad for business sales

Make it easy for customers to connect

Make it easy for customers to connect

 

What mystifies me is why service companies so often present themselves as faceless organisations? It’s a sweeping statement I know, but so many present a benign facade, speak in corporate ‘tongues’ and make it pretty difficult to access what they do, and most importantly, how they can help. 

Clients want to be treated as people and businesses can improve their financial performance by focusing on what buyers really want – simplicity, easy access, solutions that reflect their needs (who recognize change in needs before the buyer does) and flexibility.

That means recognizing and banishing our bad habits – for example using complex language when simple, plain English words would be easier, putting buyers into huge impersonal ‘target’ buckets, overwhelming folk with a gazillion services and solutions (most of which are someone’s pet topic rather than a valuable service) or making it hard to get something done.

Here are six suggestions on how organisations can adapt, to make themselves a better services partner, and crucially, to stand out from the faceless crowd:

  • Boardroom change – daily our colleagues grapple with the realities of running a complex business: where will the growth come from, what’s happening to profit and margin? Is competition making life difficult for us? Have we got the right talent and resources? If you are not at the top table shaping the agenda, giving fresh insights into needs and promoting modernizing changes that will improve your connection with your customers, then you won’t be delivering the best results in your market. Guaranteed. So figure out how to set the agenda, not wait for one to arrive
  • Simplify – most businesses are complex and bolt on additional systems and processes, which in time get in the way of client care. Make it quicker and easier for clients to do business with you. For example, figure out how to take a 20 page contract, shorten it, automate sign up and write it in plain English. If you do, clients will thank you for it. And competitors wonder how you got through legal
  • Buyers are tired – of being treated like a machine, being sold the same stuff they could get from anyone. The winners will be those who personalise and tailor their offer in a way that values the buyer rather than the firm’s structure or who bring something genuinely new to the table
  • De-clutter & dress your shop window – let’s take on the high street and banish the days of swamping our services receptions and websites with everything we do. The modern business knows that a clean, stylish, minimal shop window, beautifully presented, is all that we need to entice people in. And once they are in our so-called store, they will browse and naturally gravitate toward the service they really need. All we need to do is trust in the method. It works
  • Recognize me – the way we organize our businesses into practices or business units doesn’t always reflect the client. Often we design purely from an internal perspective, giving us a means of managing operations but not serving clients. A much more human-based approach is putting the customer first (everyone talks about it but few actually do it). For example some of the new upstart challenger banks are getting this right. They design the front end with the customer in mind (weekend opening hours, ease of access, extra little services (changing coins into notes without grumbling!) then work out how to deliver. What is the result? They are the banks signing up new customers, not the big players who are splashing the cash on TV advertising, telling us that they put customers first (whilst closing before most people get out of the office)
  • Brand – be yourself – and finally a word on brand. Believe that being yourself (knowing why your business exists and what people love about you is absolutely essential) and being humble and human are powerful business tools that are woefully under-used. Make sure you know what is special, write it down and use it in all that you do – what you say, how you market, your offices, your meetings, your proposals, how you attract staff.

Being human matters more than ever because people recognize that the way industry serves its customers is now too homogenized, so much so that having a standard offer will not be enough to survive and prosper. The tide has turned. The question is “Have you?”.

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Collaboration the new normal. Tip 4 – de

Collaboration the new normal. Tip 4 – design your customer interface around their needs not yours. #kiss #humanb2b http://ow.ly/EnDx2

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Collaboration – new normal. Tip 3 get cr

Collaboration – new normal. Tip 3 get creative. Recognise source of competitive advantage is in creativity #humanb2b http://ow.ly/EnDii

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Collaboration – the new normal. Tip 2 –

Collaboration – the new normal. Tip 2 – don’t do it to them. Do it with them. Involve your clients in your business & decisions #humanb2b http://ow.ly/EnCY1

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Collaboration – the new normal. Tip 1 un

Collaboration – the new normal. Tip 1 understand customer motivations. It’s not about you. It’s about them. #humanb2b http://ow.ly/EnCrz

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Collaboration the new normal. Tip 5 pass

Collaboration the new normal. Tip 5 pass it forward. Use contacts. We have good networks & can do more 4 people than bis encourage #humanb2b http://ow.ly/EnDO0

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Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration – the ‘new normal’

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Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration #humanb2b

 

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the business world was all about ‘dog eat dog’, keeping your friends close but your enemies closer still, and for goodness sake, never, ever share precious knowledge with anyone other than customers paying big fat fees. The power was vested in the businesses with the expertise, and no one could get at the information, without entering into a business relationship first.

Thankfully those days are gone, replaced by an environment that is much more inclusive, where power is shared, information seemlessly integrated and shared freely. Thanks to major technological advances and healthy competition, expertise is now available through the myriad of ‘channels’ that we use daily. We have GenY and Miss Google https://www.google.co.uk/ to thank for this. So that means adapting in a world where collaboration is our ‘new normal’ and a way of helping our clients.

Here are a few ways to collaborate and if you try them, the chances are that your customers will thank you for treating them like humans who want help, to share and converse with you. Leave it to your competitors to play the corporate power game:

  1. Understand the motivations – truly knowing the needs of your customers will always be more important than your needs as an organisation. Entering into a successful business relationship is just the same as a personal one. It is not about you. It’s about them. If you recognise this, the rewards will likely be a long and successful relationship
  2. Don’t do it to them – do it with them. This means a shift from pushing out marketing campaigns, mails and materials, toward getting into conversations. Ask questions. Listen. Take time out to get closer. Even involve your customers in your decisions and you will learn far more about how you can help than by issuing your latest missive on a topic of great (but only to you) importance
  3. Get creative – according to a report from BDO https://twitter.com/bdoaccountant and The Centre for Future Studies http://www.futurestudies.co.uk/home.htm “businesses are beginning to recognise that their future source of competitive advantage lies in their creative capabilities, encouraging collaboration, drawing on diverse perspectives …”. I stumbled upon an interesting example of this from someone who recognises design skills have rich applications, to help design new solutions, by drawing out buyer needs with insight. Tim Brown https://twitter.com/tceb62, president & CEO Ideo, says they have a “Human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Sounds like a compelling way to align your clients’ needs with ways you can genuinely help them and a great example of how to tackle point two
  4. Design your customer interface – yes that’s a bit of jargon but forgive me just this once. What is important is standing back and making sure that each way a customer makes contact with you is designed around their needs (rather than you or your systems design). Make sure that every route is simple, works (stating the obvious but it needs to be said) and respects them and their needs. First Direct https://twitter.com/firstdirect is a rare business in the retail banking sector because they treat me as a human being. How? They make it extremely easy for me to bank in any way that suits me rather than one imposed on me – rather than an automated telephone system favoured by many of their competitors on the high street
  5. Pass it forward – this is something I learned from Dr Sam Collins https://twitter.com/DrSamCollins of the inspirational Aspire Company http://www.aspirewomen.co.uk. Sam believes (and delivers) that our whole point is to help others, to listen, share, collaborate and network in a very authentic way. Not because we’ve been told to get better at networking (the common corporate method) but because we naturally have good networks and we can usually do more for people than businesses encourage (unless a cheque is being written). Sam’s philosophy is simple. Pay it forward and the rewards will be there – both personally and commercially.

Sam’s approach has the ring of truth in it for me, so spurs me on to motivate and inspire businesses to use what you’ve got to be successful. Simply put – encourage your employees to be brilliant human beings first and business folk second. Anyone got a great example of this in action?

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Cut out the guff. Write as you speak

It’s worth reminding ourselves how important it is to write clearly and with the reader in mind. It is easy to get carried in imparting all we know or be victim to the jargon spoken all around. These tips remind us how to keep things real …

Humans Buy Services. Honest.

Paint a visual picturePaint a visual picture

A ‘critical friend’ (aka colleague) checked some writing for me last week. Her comments were characteristically to the point – “you’ve lost sight of your audience, so cut out the management guff and write as you speak, not as you’ve been conditioned.” I couldn’t argue with her. She was right. I had lost sight of what I preach – marketing in a more friendly, human, accessible way. And it prompted this post; a recap of how to get it right.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – I know it’s a cliche but pictures work, especially in this YouTube world, where the first thing we do  is to ask the limitless Google for help, or absorb information visually via one of the excellent video channels, meaning we read less and less. So keep the pictures in your business writing, and if anything, use more to communicate simply and powerfully

Simple, short words are in

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Human or machine? What First Direct can teach Lloyds

And convenient please ...

And convenient please …

I am mid-way through refurbishing my home and paying lots of bills for all the services and materials I need. For this I rely on two banks to help me, First Direct and Lloyds. One treats me like a human being, the other part of their big business machine. There’s no need to guess which is which. Here’s what I experience:

First Direct – setting up a new payee online is an important service to me right now and with First Direct it is a breeze. Once logged on, three clicks is all that it takes from end to end and I know that money will be in the account of the payee two hours later. I like the ease, the simplicity, and above all, the convenience to me the customer

Lloyds Banking Group – doing the same thing takes considerably longer and involves more steps and more processes (in the name of security). For example, after setting up a new payee, I receive an automated call (would prefer a human if it’s strictly necessary) and I am taken through a quick identity check. At this point (and only if you are around to take the call straight away) is your payment confirmed and ready to be processed

These different experiences make me wonder though if I am a fool putting my convenience ahead of security? Having checked the security statistics though of both organisations, I see that both have similar track records and nothing much sets them apart. So that suggests that First Direct worries about my needs as a customer and that Lloyd’s driver is their own. That’s not good for customer relations or for building long term relationships. It just confirms to me that it’s time to take up First Direct’s bank account switching service and see if it is easy to do as their marketing material suggests.

Another time I phoned First Direct for some help and got through to Craig who talked me through a couple of options for paying for my holiday in Euros. He highlighted the pros and cons of paying either in Euros or in GBPs. He didn’t have to but I found it valuable information that also saved me money. It is a simple example of just how easy it is to deliver good service. I’ve made similar transactions through Lloyds in the past, although the experience always feels like I am being taken through their script, which ends up with a sales pitch for a product I don’t want.

What this shows is how easily my belief in and support for an organisation is reduced or expanded. How about you? Have you any experiences of businesses who get it right and treat you as a human being rather than a faceless buyer?

 

 

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Davina takes on Goliath – putting human qualities to work

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Last week I had the privilege of spending two days with 180 women from all kinds of organisations – blue chip, start up, not for profit, public sector – brought together by Aspire aspirewomen.co.uk and Dr Sam Collins @DrSamCollins. Our mission? Improve our leadership skills and clarify our purpose in work and in life.

What struck me was how powerful women really are, how supportive we naturally are and how much is to be gained by sharing, collaborating and asking for help. The women were inspirational, not only because they hold down amazing, tough, complex jobs, bring up families and have many other talents – anything from sailing across the world to campaigning against sexual violence or taking on organisations that are ripping off the ordinary person in the street, in a “Davina takes on Goliath” way.

Without exception everyone was friendly, approachable and enthusiastic to share their stories, their advice and skills freely. I couldn’t find anyone hiding behind their impressive job title or behaving in a way that was cold or competitive with each other. All I experienced was warmth and willingness to make the world a better place by being compassionate, and most of all, interested in helping each other. They taught me so much about getting the human touch back into business, that it’s important to share their advice:

  1. Women are a force for good – they mentor, nurture quite naturally, so are your secret weapon in adding balance to your organisation and fulfilling greater business potential. @MorrisseyHelena https://twitter.com/MorrisseyHelena and The 30 Percent Club @30percentclub https://twitter.com/30percentclub do lots of valuable work in this arena http://30percentclub.org/
  2. Don’t conform – and don’t assume that others expect us to. Be you in personality, dress and attitude. There is no need to adopt masculine behaviours to get on. In fact, one woman told me of some research that shows how irritating men find it when we try to be like them in the workplace
  3. Do random acts of kindness – and if you are lucky to receive one, “pay it forward” and enjoy watching the ripple effect of change. Many happened during the event, with donations being made instantly to causes that touched us and jobs being offered because dreams were shared and there were enough well connected women in the room to fulfil the dreams instantly. It was powerful stuff
  4. Don’t chase the money – do what you love and the rewards will be there. We heard real stories of women ditching the corporate life to set up their own businesses, giving up security and big salaries (it went the other way too!). Not only were they considerably happier and more fulfilled, they reported unexpected growth in income, explained by doing what they love
  5. Help people along the way – there was a strong sense from the women that businesses should support others by sharing their knowledge, suggesting leaving a legacy is as important as running a business on a commercial footing. For example, why not share your content openly and share others’ ideas to support each other rather than keep them to ourselves? Social media channels are proving that collaboration and sharing is easy and valuable, not giving away the ‘crown jewels’
  6. Be yourself – Dr Sam Collins has the last word on this. Sam told the audience that a previous delegate was offended by Sam’s colourful language and advised her: “You should be more corporate”, to which Sam replied “Duh? No. Corporations have human beings in them who want to be in touch with who they are.”

And what is Sam like? Strong, vibrant, playful, bright, nurturing, driven and inspirational. Who wouldn’t want those qualities in their businesses?

 

 

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